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Where do all the flags come from?
Two nonprofit groups put up hundreds on holidays
W Flag Distribution - Lions
Bulloch Lions Club members Fred Maddox (from left), Rick Barr and Barbara Davidson remove some of the organization's U.S. flags from storage. About 180 go up on Flag Day and other holidays at businesses that donate to the club in exchange for the service. - photo by Al Hackle/special

    Two organizations are responsible for more than 600 flags that will appear in front of homes and businesses around Statesboro on Flag Day, and for hundreds of flags that go up on various special days throughout the year.
    Unless rain is pouring, about 20 volunteers from the two local Lions Clubs will load pickups and start out about 6:30 a.m. Thursday — Flag Day — to place about 180 flags in front of businesses. The little Bulloch Lions Club takes the lead, involving all 16 of its members, but also marshals help from the Statesboro Noon Lions Club, which provides one of the four teams who run separate routes.
    Meanwhile, about 14 volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County started several days ago putting up flags in front of about 450 homes. While 12 Habitat-built homes are included by sponsorship, the flags appear in larger numbers around older neighborhoods and affluent subdivisions, from North Main to Irongate, where individual volunteers maintain routes.

Flags raise funds

    Setting out the flags is not a charitable act in itself but, rather, a fundraising activity that generates thousands of dollars for the charitable work of Lions and Habitat.
    The Bulloch Lions Club charges each business $50 for the first flag and $25 for each additional flag,
bringing in about $10,500 per year, said the club’s flag program chairman, Rick Barr. The money goes to Lions service projects, including sponsorship of youth activities of Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation and scholarships for local students, as well as to the Georgia Lions Camp for the Blind, the Leader Dog program, the Georgia Lighthouse Foundation and Lions Club International Foundation.
    With Habitat charging residents $40 per year for a flag, that organization’s service nets $16,000 to $18,000 annually.
    “This raises a lot of money for our Habitat building programs,” said Ruth Ann Rogers, the Habitat flag program coordinator. “All of that money goes to support the mission of Habitat, which is to provide good housing for people who otherwise might not be able to afford to own their own home.”
    Habitat’s local chapter, established in 1991, is completing its 44th home this month. The flag program has been growing since its creation in 1996. The Lions Clubs, meanwhile, have provided their flag service to businesses for about 20 years.
    The two programs differ in several particulars. The Lions always put the flags up and take them down the same day, usually around 5 p.m. The holidays covered include the Fourth of July; Labor Day; Constitution Day — by encouragement of the Daughters of the American Revolution — on Sept. 17; Veterans Day; Presidents Day; Armed Forces Day, on the third Saturday in May; Memorial Day; and Flag Day.
    This year, flags also will go up at businesses on Nov. 6, Election Day.

Different holidays
    In contrast, the Habitat for Humanity volunteers usually put the residential flags up two or three days in advance and take them down two or three days after the holiday.
    “We try to bookend the holiday on either end, and our volunteers are truly that — volunteers — and so I try to give them some leeway so that they can put the flags up,” Rogers said. “Perhaps they’re going out of town for the holidays as well.”
    Habitat’s covered holidays include Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Patriot Day and Veterans Day. One distribution covers two of these days, with the flags remaining up from Labor Day — Sept. 3 this year — through Patriot Day, always Sept. 11.
    Habitat for Humanity experiences some theft of flags, Rogers said. Charitably, she said the people who take them must not realize the impact of what they are doing.
    “We very seldom lose an American flag,” said Barr, who attributes this to the Lions’ not leaving them up overnight.
    However, the Lions have found theft to be a serious problem with another flag service they operate. Also, for $50 for the first flag and $25 for each additional, the Lions puts up blue Georgia Southern Eagles flags at businesses for home football games, A Day for Southern and the university’s fall and spring graduation days.
    They have learned to take the Eagles flags down promptly in the afternoon.
    “If you leave them till after the ball game, they disappear,” Barr said.

Challenges
    Both organizations set aside some money to replace flags. Rogers said she recently ordered 25 new flags and expects to order 25 more this year. She turns flags that have become torn or worn over to the Boy Scouts, who conduct flag retirement ceremonies.
    She also repairs some herself, “like Betsy Ross” but with a sewing machine, she said.
    If substantial rain is falling on a holiday morning, the Lions do not put their flags out. But once the flags are up, they don’t rush to gather them if rain arrives.
    “That’s flag etiquette,” Barr said. “You’re not supposed to fly the flag, to put it out in the morning, if it’s raining. Now if it’s already out and starts raining, that’s OK.”
    Habitat’s use of volunteers who adopt particular neighborhoods limits the regular residential distribution to those routes. But Rogers, whose husband, Richard, assists with the program, makes special efforts to provide flags to other Bulloch residents who pay the $40 subscription.
    “If someone really wants a flag and will contact me, even though they don’t live in a subdivision and even though they don’t have a volunteer, I will come out and install their flag and ask them to store it and put it up themselves,” she said.
    To sign up for flag service, businesses can speak to a Lions Club member of send a request, check and address to Bulloch Lions Club, P.O. Box 391, Statesboro, GA 30459. Residents seeking a flag can find contact numbers and other info at www.habitatbulloch.org. The organizations also refer inquiries to each other as needed.

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